For a long time, I have been convinced that holding a book in my hands is superior to scrolling through an e-book on a tablet. Not only do I prefer the weight of a book in my hands and the smell of the pages as I bury my nose in the spine, I also figure a hard copy is easier on the eyes. As it turns out, I may need to revise my thinking.
In a presentation at the most recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Dr. Daniel Roth, an eye specialist and clinical associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ, offered new findings on why tablet computers are helping seniors read with increased clarity and speed.
Yes, you read right – technology can make life better for seniors, not worse! Dr. Roth’s test results revealed that participants age 50 and above read about 128 words per minute on an iPad, compared to 114 words per minute with a newspaper. The font size was the same – 10-point.
Dr. Roth suggested that the tablet’s illuminated screen enhances the contrast between the words and the background, easing eyestrain and enhancing readability. Since contrast sensitivity (the visual ability to differentiate between foreground and background information) declines with age, a backlit screen can help seniors see better and read more efficiently.
Of course, a tablet computer like an iPad or Kindle also enables you to increase the font size, which increases reading speed.
Is it enough for me to switch from hardcovers to lightweight e-readers? I’m not sure. But as my eyesight declines with age, I might rethink my hardcover conviction.